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Home State of ECIG, ltd. drops ball on youth sale ban for product

Michigan has joined the handful of states that have chosen not to ban sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. Governor Rick Snyder has vetoed a bill left over from the 2014 legislative session that would have regulated e-cigarettes at the state level, pending action at the national level by the Food and Drug Administration. These states have been lobbied hard by some health advocacy groups to delay regulatory action. The reasoning is convoluted.

Everybody knows that nicotine should be kept out of teenagers' hands. Aside from the unproven possibility that it will lead the kids to a lifetime of addiction, the substance has a different effect on the developing neurological structures of young people. Nicotine is harmful to youth in a different way than to adults, who are killed by cigarettes because the delivery method is toxic, not because of the substance itself. So it is imperative to block sale of e-cigs to minors, but the FDA fails to step up to the plate and do its job, preferring to spend public money on seminars where its acolytes give fretful presentations about trace levels, innocuous levels, of toxicants in e-vapor.

The American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society have led the lobbying effort to delay state bans on youth sales, and their reasoning is that such a ban would carry with it a definition of e-cigs as consumer products, not as tobacco products, and consequently a lighter tax burden for the harm reduction devices. They want to hold out for tighter regulation that will allow a tobacco definition with a probability of taxation equal to the taxes on cigarettes. The states that have heeded AHA and ACS blandishments and withheld youth sales bans include Maine, Masachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Pensylvania, and Texas, and also the District of Columbia.

The case of Michigan is particularly interesting because the state is the corporate home of the fastest growing independent corporation that markets e-cigarettes, the former Victory E-Cigs which has redefined itself as the international vaping supplies conglomerate ECIG, Ltd. (the Electronic Cigarette International Group). For the past year, the company has employed an aggressive expansionist strategy, buying up smaller companies and developing them with vigorous advertising and market expansion. They have also featured a tightwire act on the stock market, allowing share prices to plummet, then staging a reverse stock split, and offering a bargain-basement share price to attract new investors. The equivalent of a double somersault with a balancing bar on the high wire. The buzz among market observers is that the ploy is intended as a protective measure to prevent an aggressive buyout attempt by Big Tobacco, as happened with other small e-cig companies like Blu, GreenSmoke, and Dragonite. ECIG's market clout could soon equal that of the juggernaut companies of Big Tobacco, and enable independent vaping supplies concerns to challenge Big Tobacco's dominance.

This is no small matter for Michigan's economy, and it seems a poor time for the state to adopt an anti-e-cig stance. ECIG is not located in decaying motor city Detroit or centrally-located state capital Lansing, but on the west side of the state, near the Lake Michigan shore, just across the “shining big-sea water” from Chicago.

The bill to ban youth sales of e-cigarettes was introduced by Republican representative Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, a west side suburb of Lansing, and vetoed by Governor Rick Snyder. Says Snyder, "It's important that these devices be treated like tobacco products and help people become aware of the dangers e-cigarettes pose." The Governor does not say what he thinks those dangers are. Says Jones, "I think it was a big mistake.... Recent studies have shown that the use of electronic cigarettes by children is way up and that needs to be controlled by state authorities.... Many of my friends have used [e-cigs] to get off of cigarettes. I don't want to discourage people from giving up that nasty habit and moving into something safer.”